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Episode 35: Are You a Boundary Breaker? How to Set Limits to Protect Your Creativity

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This transcript has been automatically generated.


Because listen, I know you love your work. I do too. And it's one of the biggest blessings, right? That we get to do something that we love so much that it actually doesn't feel like work, but we do still need to keep it separate from our life. I'm Bonnie Christine, and this is where all things, creativity, design, business, and marketing unite. I'm a mama living in a tiny town, tucked right inside the Smoky Mountains, running a multi seven figure business, doing the most creative and impactful work of my life. When I first set out to become an entrepreneur, I was struggling to make ends meet and wrestling with how to accomplish my biggest dream of becoming a fabric designer.

Fast forward to today, I'm not only licensing my artwork all over the world, but also teaching others how to design their creative life and experience the same success. I'm here to help you spend your life doing something that lights you up. I'll help you build a creative business that also creates an impact, changes people's lives, gives you all of the freedom you want and is wildly profitable.

Welcome to the Professional Creative Podcast cast. Today I want to talk about setting boundaries in our business and our creative businesses because if you are anything like me, it took me way too many years to get better at doing this. And so I wanna share a couple of ways that I set boundaries in my business. As a creative entrepreneur, our to-do list is never complete, right? I mean, there are always more things that we could do because at the end of the day, the entire business and the success of the business comes down to how much we are doing, which means that really we never get to cross off our entire to-do list. Rather we get to a stopping point. Do you find yourself saying that phrase?

I say all the time, well, let me just get to a stopping point and then I'll come back to it on the next day or the next time that I'm working. But what this can lead to is checking in on our business in all times of the day, in every day of the week, even on things like vacation and when we're, you know, trying to go to sleep at night. So there's really no difference or no boundaries in between our life and our business. And just because we're a creative entrepreneur doesn't mean that we don't need that differentiation. Setting boundaries is really essential to maintaining that healthy work-life balance that we always talk about. But beyond work-life balance, it's about avoiding burnout and making sure that you build in time to do the things that you love in your life that are not related to work.

Because listen, I know you love your work. I do too. And it's one of the biggest blessings, right? That we get to do something that we love so much that it actually doesn't feel like work, but we do still need to keep it separate from our life. This is important to your overall wellbeing and essentially increased productivity and ultimately greater success in both your professional and your personal life.

We are juggling so many different things, and specifically as women, we're often juggling motherhood or taking care of other people in our life as well. And all of those expectations lead to the importance of setting boundaries. Now for this episode, there are three different types of boundaries that I want to talk about. So the first one is boundaries around checking in on the business.

The second one is around boundaries for what we say yes to. And the third one is boundaries around receiving feedback. So that's where we're headed. But before we dive into the first one, I want to tell you a little story. Several years ago, I made myself a huge acrylic calendar for my wall. And so it's like four foot by six foot, so it's really big. And I designed the entire thing, had it printed, and it's my annual calendar at a glance. So at the end of every year, I redate it for the upcoming year because it's dry erase and then I can map out my entire year. It is amazing. And if you don't have something like this, I highly recommend it.

Well, it wasn't long after that I began getting requests for them. And so I spoke to the printer and we decided to collaborate and sell these. And it was really in the fall, like just before Christmas. And so I believe we sold about 15 of these really big acrylic calendars, and they were pretty expensive to get printed. I think they were.

They ran around $600 for the customer and we package them with care and lots of, you know, squishy peanuts and cardboard and tape, and we shipped them off. Then fast forward to Christmas day. So it's Christmas day, I am with my family, my little children are opening their gifts, and I happen to grab my phone and check my email.

And when I looked, I had about four emails from people who had received these acrylic calendars. And I hadn't thought about this, but they were for gifts and they were all broken. So all four of of these were broken, and throughout the day, more and more emails came in. So I think I ended up with seven or eight emails or about broken calendars on Christmas day.

And if you can sit with me and this for me, it immediately, like my stomach turned and knots, my breathing got shallow. This was very early symptoms of like anxiety around this. I felt so horrible. I didn't know what we were gonna do because it was such a huge production to get them printed and shipped in the first place. And so of course I started emailing back people right away.

I'm so sorry. Don't worry, we're gonna figure it out. I've got you covered, right? And so some people emailed me back and they were like, it's Christmas, what are you doing? Don't email me back. I didn't. I never expected to hear back from you today. I just wanted to let you know, you know, we'll take care of it when you're back in the studio.

And I thought how interesting that their assumption was that I wouldn't be responding on Christmas Day. Yet there I was on Christmas managing my business. So what business did I have checking my work email on Christmas Day? That's the real question. Now you're probably wondering what we did. So let me tell you, I'll finish this story for you and then we'll dive into boundaries.

But what I did was, and there were only seven or eight of them, and so I wasn't confident in printing and shipping them again. And so what I did was personally find a printer within driving distance of every one of these customers. And I worked one-on-one with the printer to get it reprinted and delivered by the printer to the customer's house. And so I worked with seven or eight completely different printers all over the United States, and I never sold another calendar. I don't sell them anymore and don't ever wanna do that again. Okay, so that leads me to number one, boundaries around checking in on the business. When we're constantly checking in, then we're always kind of feeling like we are on, and there's an emotional toll that comes with that.

It's very tempting when you've got everything at your fingertips to check your numbers, check your sales, check your email, check your feedback, check your reviews, right? See what people are saying. But with that comes this very like raw feeling of just always being on. And honestly, it makes it really difficult to unplug and really enjoy life, really enjoy your family or your friends or whatever you're doing outside of business. So over the years, I've developed a couple of healthy solutions and boundaries to that pull to be constantly checking in. We have a saying in my business that there are no emergencies. And I think that that's likely true for your business as well. Of course you need to think about it, but I always feel like, you know, we're not brain surgeons. There are typically no life or death situations and nothing is an emergency.

Whereas when we're in the throes of business, oftentimes things can feel really urgent and things can feel like an emergency, like an unhappy customer. But truthfully, as long as you're taking care of it in a relatively respectful amount of time, there's very few times where everything must stop. You have to drop everything and take care of a particular situation. And so this is something that I adopted a long time ago and have brought the team into as well.

There are no such things as emergencies in our business. I've also worked really hard on designating times to check in. So I developed a bad habit of checking my email late at night or first thing in the morning or both. And then also just on the weekends and on vacation. I was just kind of keeping an eye on things and checking in. But the risk here is that you'll see something that is either negative or needs attention and, and this can lead to some real anxiety. So for instance, say you are getting ready for bed, it's 8 30, 9 o'clock at night and you see an email from an unhappy customer. I don't think that happens very often in any of our businesses, but it's likely happened at least a few times, and it will continue to do so as you grow. So say you see that at nine o'clock, well, okay, so now you're either staying up to craft the perfect response or you're staying awake and thinking about it all night. Same thing happens to me if I check it first thing in the morning because I have this whole morning routine, and I don't typically get to my computer until around 10 30 or 11. And so if I'm seeing something that really needs attention at 7:00 AM well the next three, three and a half hours, you know, my mind is on that problem. So I really had to set out and decide, do myself a favor and designate times for checking in. So I only check in when I'm in a place where I could give something attention right away, meaning I'm working, I'm at my computer, I'm at the studio, I'm not trying to live my life.

You know, I'm not with my children or on vacation, I'm working. And so if I were to see something that needed quick attention, I would be able to give it to them right away. This has saved so much mental bandwidth and I highly suggest it. Now the next one is turning off notifications, especially during non-work hours. So one of the best things I ever did was turn off my email notifications,

meaning I can't see an email until I intentionally go and check it. I also turn off my Slack notifications if I'm out of the office or my telegram notifications if I'm away. It's just important to notice how many times we get tugged back into a work scenario by notifications that we've allowed to come through on our phones. The last thing I'll say about checking in on the business is that I've noticed that I can actually use it as a little bit of a procrastination tool.

Meaning if I'm trying to do some deep work, you know, like really important work that moves the business forward and it starts to feel difficult, I'll say like, oh, I need to check in on the business. I need to check my email. I need to check my messages, my dms, my Slack channel. I need to check in with the team.

And then before you know it, you've been, you know, answering comments and things like that for over an hour and procrastinated on the thing that you actually needed to do. So one way that I honor my boundaries is by removing even the possibility of a distraction. So I'll turn all of my notifications off my ringer off, my message is off all of it.

I'll even put my my phone in another room sometimes, and then I'll also kind of alert the team or my family that I'm going into a work zone. So don't expect me to come out. Okay? The next boundary that I wanna talk about, number two, is around what we say yes to and what we say no to. Oftentimes we're saying yes to too many things, and this is something that I think everyone does at the beginning. And rightfully so. There's usually a time in your business where it's actually beneficial to say yes to just about everything that you possibly can, but sometimes we're a little late and recognizing when it's time to start saying no a little bit more. And this usually happens as you begin finding some success and getting busier and busier, and you've created this habit of saying yes to just about every opportunity or ask that comes in your direction. And you have to really realize that at some point this shifts to saying yes to only the very best things or some of the best things. And then eventually it shifts to where you are saying no to nearly everything in order to create margin for only the very, very, very best things.

And so that's a very gradual growth period around how often we say yes and how often we say no. But when we're saying yes to a lot of different things, it means that we're being very reactive instead of being proactive. So reactive means that our days are controlled by our inbox and the requests that come our way. And so it can feel very much like we're getting tossed with the waves always kind of running in circles and doing things that don't necessarily completely align with our creative vision for the business.

Now, being proactive means that you have your head wrapped around your schedule, you have your priorities at top of mind, and you're only saying yes to certain things that fit into your schedule, and you're scheduling them in places that make sense for your workflow. Now, I have some of you listening at all different types of stages, the very beginning stage where you're likely saying yes to just about everything,

the middle stage where you're getting really busy and you need to start saying no more. And then the really successful stage where you are really saying no to almost everything. In fact, our very next episode is gonna be based on how to respond to that question that we all get. Can I pick your brain? Okay. So stay tuned for our next episode on how I suggest handling that question.

Can I pick your brain? But it has to do with what we say yes to and how busy you are or successful you are as well. So based on where you fall, a couple of solutions are first of all to have a daily, weekly, and annual plan. Meaning have an ideal day in your mind, an ideal week in your mind,

and of course an annual plan so that you can see if the request is for six months from now, you can see if you've got room on your calendar for it or not. Now, a daily and a weekly schedule just means that you've already given some thought to the way you want your day and your week to flow. And this comes down to batch working oftentimes.

And so I'll typically do all of my live calls on one particular day or a couple of different days of the week, and then I've got a couple of days a week, usually Tuesday and Thursday for me that I don't have to be on camera or be live at all, and I do more quiet work. And so I batch like types of work together, which means if someone needs something or wants to meet up or wants to do a zoom call, I've got ideas on where that would best fit on my schedule. I also think as you begin getting asked for more and more things, it's important to have answers already thought of about your most commonly asked questions. And so for me, this looks like a long list of resources that I constantly find myself giving people.

I've got books and podcasts and classes that I'm always recommending. And so this is helpful for me to just remember when I'm getting asked things in real time. And then the last one is to really learn how to say no, there is an art to this. Now it can be as simple as just saying no, but there is an art to saying no in a more heartfelt way.

And so I typically try to say no with a yes. And so for instance, if someone asks me to design a logo for them, well, that's not typically something that I do unless you're my mom. And so I'll say something like, I don't design logos, but I have a friend who does. Here's her information, right? So that was a no with a yes.

And so you give them a lead to a potential yes, that's outside of your control, but it is important to quickly say no and don't procrastinate on doing so and do it clearly as well. I think we've all probably fallen into that trap of saying something like, my next few months are really busy, why don't you check back with me in the fall?

Well, we all know that you just want to say no, but you're putting it off or you're just not responding. You know, you're letting that email sit at the bottom of your inbox, and we really need to just establish a practice of quickly responding with a clear and kind response that includes, no, this is so important because over-commitment will lead to burnout, but it also compromises the quality of your work and your creativity. So practicing assertiveness and learning how to say no gracefully will come and serve you in your business for years and years to come. So the third one is around boundaries, around seeing feedback. Now as you grow your business and as you start to talk to more and more and more people, this is just inevitable.

And I spent many, many years really wanting no negative feedback. I am used to surprising and delighting people, and that's where I'm most comfortable. I like to over-deliver. I like to delight my customers. I like them to love their interaction with us. And so typically, I mean more than 99% of the time that's the case. But we simply are speaking to so many people now and you are too likely,

and if not yet, you will be soon that there's just kind of inevitably some negative feedback mixed in. You can't make everyone happy. And while we try, it's actually just not possible. And so we have to learn how to navigate being okay with that. You know, something I heard last year was Everyone won't like what you say, and that's okay.

And I thought, wow, is it really that simple? And it's like, I think it is. Now, of course, we very much care what people think and the feedback that they give us, but it's okay if we get some kind of feedback that's not really our favorite, especially as we grow in our audience size because we're just attracting so many different types of people.

So this problem again, arises when we're checking in at all hours of the day and every day of the week. And in our business, we're typically asking for feedback, meaning we're putting artwork or our product out into the world and we're asking people to review it or tell us what they think about it, right? If you teach a class online, then you are also asking students for feedback and to leave you a review and comments on lessons and things like that.

No matter what your business is, you're likely getting emails. And for our bigger products and services, we very intentionally survey our students and customers to ask for their feedback. And so it's pretty inevitable that we're going to be sifting through both positive and negative feedback or places where we can improve. And for me, this oftentimes leaves me feeling vulnerable. And that level of vulnerability can also very much contribute to anxiety.

And so you may not struggle with this, but some of you I know do because I did for many years as well. When you are constantly exposing yourself to receiving feedback, whether it's good or bad, you're just increasing your level of stress. And then that also leads to anxiety as well. If you let those things really affect you, which is so easy to do, I think any normal person does let that affect them until you learn how to really grow a relationship with the feedback that you get through your business. So one of the very first things that I did was put a buffer in between me and what I'll call the front lines. Meaning if I see an email from someone who's really upset and I read it, I will always remember what they said, I'll remember the tone in which they said it, and I won't necessarily always remember the positives, meaning I could get 100 positive emails and I'll remember the negative one the most. And so what I did was really work to set a buffer in place. And this was my very first hire and someone who was in our inbox. And what they were able to do was just sift through anything like that that came in and keep it from me.

Now, not hide it from me because it's very important to receive feedback, but what they do is kind of summarize it for me, meaning they take the emotion out of it and summarize the feedback for me where I don't have to be the one who's actually living in the emotion with the person who wrote it, because this is our business. This is your business, it's your baby, right? And so if you can bring someone else in who's not quite as emotionally attached to your business as you are, then they can come through and get this feedback and summarize it for you in a way that is still incredibly helpful but not hurtful. I also have this same person usually go through our feedback surveys from things like conferences and courses.

And so what they're able to do is again, take all of the feedback or the places where we could improve and summarize them. And so again, it takes the emotion out of it, yet it still allows us to get the feedback that's so incredibly important for us to learn from. Criticism is one of the key things that we use in order to benefit future students or customers and tweak our products and make them better and better and better.

But when we can kind of strip them from anything that's hurtful and then get down to the root request, then we can often improve our products from there. Now again, this doesn't happen very often in my business. We serve an incredible industry and an incredible community, but I find that oftentimes we are held back from sharing because we're afraid of the feedback,

we're afraid of the criticism, and we're losing sleep at night over trying to make one person happy or craft that perfect email response, right, that we're gonna send the next day. And so I just wanna give you permission to set some boundaries up, do yourself a favor, put a buffer in between you and the front lines, and really decide what you want to allow into your mind.

If I could strip the fear away from everyone who has it surrounding getting feedback, can you imagine how much more beauty would be in the world? We let this stuff stop us too often. And at the end of the day, what you have to add to the world is so much more important. It's worth figuring out how to manage the vulnerability around potentially getting feedback.

So again, these three types of boundaries I've worked to set up in my business, they help me find balance and success. Boundary number one is around checking in on the business boundary. Number two is around what I say yes to. And boundary number three is around handling negative feedback. Now on the third one, we also keep positive feedback. We actually keep it in folders where we can go dive into it anytime we need a pick me up up or a good reminder of why we're doing the work that we're doing.

And so I would suggest that as well. We have a bunch of different ways we do this. We have a folder in our inbox where we put love notes, if you will. We also have a Slack channel completely dedicated to positive feedback from students and customers. And so it is so important to let the positive feedback resonate with you just as deeply, actually much more deeply than any negative feedback that you ever get. Setting these boundaries up for me has been a game changer over the last three years. I had gotten to such a vulnerable place that I was really scared to show up in any capacity for fear of feedback. And so these boundaries have helped me push through and continue to do the work that I love and I know the world needs.

And so I hope it does for you as well because my friend, the world needs the beauty that you want to put into it. And remember, there's room for you. I'll see you next week. Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of The Creative Professional.

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I'm Bonnie Christine.


Thanks for joining me in this journey. I can't wait to help you to craft a career you love!

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